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“What you’re finding is in poorer communities you’re getting higher incidence of this and in poorer communities you’re finding the huge verdicts,” said McKeon, a member of the medical malpractice reform working group of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team revamping Medicaid. He said other factors include lawsuits needlessly naming every doctor in a patient’s medical record who had little to do with the case, and preventive medicine’s increase in diagnostic tests, which create more opportunities for poor communications between diagnosing and treating physicians, he said.

Earlier this year, Pfau issued, and the Administrative Board of the Courts approved, new rules for the state trial courts on medical malpractice, calling for settlement conferences 45 days after court papers are filed indicating that the case is ready for trial. Only attorneys fully familiar with the case and authorized to settle it are to appear, and judges may also order insurance representatives and others with an interest to appear.

Federal data showed just over 1,800 medical malpractice payments statewide for $736 million in 2009, down from 2,400 payments for $822 million three years earlier. The New York Public Interest Research Group noted that 10 percent drop occurred even as the number of doctors practicing in the state increased to almost 65,000.